Woman alleges she was fired over pregnancy

Posted at 3:48 PM, May 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-06 02:24:53-04

An Anne Arundel County woman is seeking a year’s worth of wages, reimbursement of medical expenses and an apology from a company she says terminated her because she was pregnant.

Leslie Ann Bentley was let go from her job as an associate financial representative with Northwestern Mutual and Michael Chartos and Associates in Annapolis in August 2015, two months after she was hired, according to a letter lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland sent to Milwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual.

The action came about a month after Bentley revealed her pregnancy to her supervisors, Chartos and Benjamin Ganley.

“Almost immediately thereafter, Mr. Chartos abruptly changed his supervisory conduct from giving positive feedback regarding her performance and attitude, to criticism of trivial and inconsequential mistakes,” ACLU of Maryland legal director Deborah A. Jeon and litigation and policy fellow Nick Steiner wrote in the letter.

About two weeks later, after Bentley had discussed the possibility of working from home for the first six weeks after he child was born, she was fired.

“Mr. Chartos told Ms. Bentley the company could not afford to have a pregnant employee who needed leave from work at the time her baby was due, in January 2016,” the letter said.

Bentley filed a complaint with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, which found the firm has fewer than 15 employees and is therefore not covered by anti-discrimination laws.

ACLU lawyers are disputing the fact that the firm has less than 15 employees, as its parent company, Northwestern Mutual, employs many more people than that.

Lawyers also pointed out that Maryland laws were amended in 2013 to expand protections to pregnant women with disabilities caused or contributed by pregnancy or childbirth.

Steiner says Bentley lost her job and her health benefits at a time when she needed them most.

She has since taken an hourly day job and tends a bar at night to make ends meet, while tackling the tasks of being a new mother.

ABC2 News approached the Annapolis firm for its side of the story, but officials there declined to comment.

RELATED: What rights do pregnant workers have?